Art. XVIII.—Notes on Southern Lepidoptera.
[Read before the Wellington Philosophical Society, 7th October, 1903.]
This paper is intended as an extension and amplification of my “Catalogue of Southland Lepidoptera” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., xxxiii., 167). I have also taken the opportunity to correct several errors which unfortunately appeared in that
article. Though the majority of the species dealt with are to be found in Southland, I have not restricted myself to artificial boundaries, and “southern” in this case must be understood to mean practically Southland and Otago. For much information regarding the moths of central Otago I am indebted to Mr. J. H. Lewis, and I have also freely availed myself of information supplied by other trustworthy workers. Where no locality is given for a species it may be understood that it is to be found in the near neighbourhood of Inver-cargill.
This moth appears to be on the increase. The larva is probably distasteful to birds, and as it feeds on introduced grasses its increase is not a matter for surprise. On the 9th December, 1901, I put a couple of newly emerged females in a box and placed it on a low shrub. This was at half-past 5 in the morning, and in a few minutes several males were flying round the bush, and in the course of the day nearly two hundred visited the box. I have several times seen the males on the wing between 5 and 6 a.m. It resembles in this habit the very common Nyctemera annulata.
Miselia iota, Hdsn.
A very worn example of this moth was taken in the winter of 1900, and a second was secured at sugar in October, 1901.
There appears to be only an autumn brood of this moth. I have met with it in fair numbers on the ragwort (Senecio) in March, but have not taken it at any other time.
This moth may be struck off our southern lists for the present, the Orepuki examples having turned out to be Leucania moderata.
This species is often confused with L. atristriga. The fore wings are, however, broader in propria, and the difference in form of the dark longitudinal basal streak is very noticeable. This streak in atristriga tapers to an acute point, while in propria it is but slightly tapered, and ends obtusely.
I learn from Mr. J. H. Lewis that this species is common at Ida Valley and Wedderburn.
Also fairly common at Ida Valley.
On the authority of Mr. Robert Gibb, Tuturau, near Mataura, may be added to the localities for this handsome moth. It is strange that it has never been taken in this district, which is not more than thirty miles from Tuturau.
Abundant at Haldane and Tuturau; much scarcer at West Plains.
Common at Wedderburn, J. H. Lewis.
For the past three years I have always obtained a few examples of this rarity during the month of April.
Three in December at flowers of Parsonsia albiflora,* and one at sugar in September.
M. umbra, Hdsn.
Recently described by Mr. Hudson from specimens secured in this district. This fine moth, which is common during the summer months, is extremely variable. Three varieties are figured by Mr. Hudson.
Rare, but occurring from October to June.
The type specimen was taken at sugar on the 11th May. A few evenings later another was secured by Mr. George Howes.
Evidently a very rare insect. Beside the type specimen, now in Mr. G. V. Hudson's collection, but one other example has been taken. This is in the possession of Mr. Robert Dunlop, of Orepuki,† who secured it at the electric light.
[Footnote] * I should point out that this plant, though sometimes called the white rata here, is a totally distinct species from the white rata (Metrosideros) of the north.
[Footnote] † Mr. Dunlop's address is now Shettleston, Glasgow, Scotland.
Type taken at sugar in December. Mr. Lewis has also taken one at Ida Valley.
Fairly common at Ida Valley.
This fine moth may, I think, be placed on our list as permanently established. About a dozen examples have been noticed during the last three years.
Fairly common at flowers of Parsonsia albiflora in December.
Mr. G. V. Hudson found this peculiar little moth in fair numbers at Paradise, Lake Wakatipu.
Common at light from December to February.
One specimen in January at flowers of ragwort. The species is fairly common on Flagstaff Hill, near Dunedin.
One example in February at flowers of ragwort.
I secured one at sugar in June. A dense fog prevailed, and no other insects were about.
Mr. J. H. Lewis has met with orophyla at Wedderburn. It is probably generally distributed north of Dunedin.
According to Mr. Lewis this species is very common at the Matukituki River, Wanaka.
Rare, but might easily be passed over as ægrota.
Abundant during the summer months on the sandhills near the coast.
This moth varies considerably in point of size and depth of colouring. I have one specimen so dark as to be almost black.
Common at New River on sandhills, and probably found in most uncultivated open situations.
Abundant in all open undisturbed situations.
Mr. George Howes took several near Dunedin.
I have examples from Wedderburn.
I have not met with this beautiful moth in any other locality than Seaward Moss, where it is very common during the summer months. When on the wing the insect appears to be almost black, the striking coloration of the fore wings not being observable.
Ida Valley in October.
Not common; one or two at ragwort in February.
Fairly common at ragwort in February.
Wedderburn, J. H. Lewis.
I have taken so far but one example of this species, and am inclined to regard it as an extreme form of humeraria.
The southern forms of this variable species appear to be darker than those of the north. Examples from Wellington which I have had an opportunity of examining are light ochreous- brown, while southern forms (males) are dark-brown and the females delicate silvery-grey. The male variety with the four black spots on the fore wings is not uncommon here, while the form with the large black blotch in the centre of the fore wings is occasionally met with.
Mr. Robert Dunlop, of Orepuki, has taken a fine series of this handsome moth; in fact, he found it to be one of the most frequent visitors to the electric light. It seems to be a constant form in a very variable genus.
Several at light, Orepuki.
One at sugar at West Plains, and several at Orepuki Very variable.
Fairly common on the mountains round Lake Wakatipu.
Humboldt Range. I am indebted to Mr. G. V. Hudson for examples of this and the preceding species.
There is a great difference between northern and southern forms. Typical Wellington males are almost one-quarter larger, and exhibit very little of the dark-brown colour, the spots being reduced to mere dots, and the terminal bands being very narrow. Examples from this district have the brown colouring extending from base to about ⅓, and broad borders of the same colour on costa, termen, and dorsum; the spots are also large, and in many cases form unbroken bands. Altogether, our variety of salustius much more nearly resembles C. enysii than Wellington specimens of salustius. An apparently constant distinction between enysii and salustius will be found in the colour of the cilia of the hind wings. In salustius this is bright-yellow, in enysii dull-orange.
Very common here among manuka during summer. I have also examples from Dunedin and Lake Wanaka.
West Plains, Dunedin, and Lake Wanaka. Probably generally distributed wherever manuka (Leptospermum) is found.
Lake Wanaka and Ida Valley. Mr. Lewis informs me that Ida Valley specimens are duller and more inconspicuous than Lake Wanaka forms.
Plentiful among manuka. Our variety appears to be somewhat smaller and duller in colour than northern forms.
Common at Wedderburn. I have also met with it at Sandy Point and New River, near Invercargill.
Abundant during summer months.
Fairly common, West Plains and Wedderburn.
Very rare. One example at light in February.
Ida Valley. I am indebted to Mr. J. H. Lewis for specimens of this and the two preceding species.
Abundant and generally distributed November to January. Some slight variation is exhibited in the form of the white central stripe of the fore wings and the depth of ground-colour.
This beautiful insect is abundant at Seaward Moss. I have not met with it in any other locality.
Very common on sandhills at New River from October to January. It is not restricted, however, to sandy situations, being found in plenty in most open localities.
Common at light in February.
Not common. I have met with two or three specimens.
Fairly common in low-lying bush.
Abundant in dry open country. The markings appear to be constant, but there is unusual variation in point of size.
A few examples in bush during February.
Abundant in swampy bush in January and February.
Rare. One or two at light in February.
Common, and generally distributed.
During February I found this species in fair numbers in a swampy situation here. It is not easy to follow its movements when on the wing, as its flight is erratic and rapid.
The moth referred to as falcatalis in the “Catalogue” (Trans. N.Z. Inst., xxxiii., 167) should be haasti. I have however, since found the true falcatalis at Waihopai. It appears to be much scarcer than haasti.
Several examples in December.
A few, associated with lycosemus. Are they varieties of one species?
Otatara in October. Not so common as plagiatana.
I am indebted to Mr. Lewis for examples of these insects. They were taken at Wedderburn.
An early spring species. Very common at sugar in April and May.
Also an early species. Not so common as the preceding.
A few in December. My specimens were all taken when the manuka (Leptospermum) was in blossom. I am inclined to think that as the moth sits at rest its white head, thorax, and basal portion of wings are of protective value by reason of their resemblance to an opening manuka-bud.
Not common. Generally distributed. Through the kindness of Mr. G. V. Hudson I have been enabled to compare the northern S. peroneanella with this insect (Semiocosma mystis, of Meyrick) and am unable to separate the species. The character relied on by Mr. Meyrick as distinctive is by no means constant in the southern forms.
Common at sugar in December and January.
Very common in forest during summer.
Comes occasionally to sugar in November and December.
I think that this species may be taken off our southern lists for the present. I cannot find that Mr. Howes's examples differ from hemimochla.
Uncertain in appearance. I found it in some numbers in the summer of 1901–2.
Not uncommon in January.
Occasionally met with.
Frequently taken at light, and common among rough herbage during spring and summer.
Lysiphragma howesii (mixochlora).
Not uncommon. Its pupal cocoons may be found in similar situations to those of epixyla, but are not so conspicuous, being often almost hidden in the substance of the bark. Mr. Ambrose Quail described this insect as howesii, but Mr. E. Meyrick's description of mixochlora seems to me to fit it very well, and I have some doubts of its distinctness.
I took about a dozen examples of this handsome moth at light in March, 1902. The larvæ live on the roots of grasses, and inhabit deep tunnels lined with silk. When full-grown they are nearly 4 in. long, and much lighter in colour than the larvæ of despecta or cervinata, being whitish-ochreous, with paler neutral surface and darker thoracic segments. The head is bright brownish-red. The tunnels are driven in rather an oblique direction to a depth of from 15 in. to 20 in. Three examples which I tried to rear pupated about the middle of August, but failed to emerge from that state. I am strongly of opinion that the larva of this moth is the “vegetable caterpillar.” No other moth in this district known to me is large enough to warrant the assumption that its larva may be the host of the fungus. I have several times found the fungus-attacked larvæ here, and, as far as a comparison between these and the living larvæ of P. dinodes can be trusted, I think it bears out my opinion.
In November, 1900, I was successful in taking for the first, time females of this species. They are very rare in comparison with the males, and are duller in colour, with fewer markings.